Jackie Gleason made the phrase “…and away we go” popular during the introduction to his 1950s variety show, “The Jackie Gleason Show.” However, there was a group of people who probably uttered this phrase more often than the 156 episodes of Jackie’s show.
Numbers records the Israelite’s 40-year journey through the wilderness after God rescued them from Egypt. One passage from this journey has always caught my eye.
“Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the LORD commanded. Then at the LORD’s command they would break camp and move on. Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. So they camped or traveled at the LORD’s command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses.” (Numbers 9:20-23 NLT, emphasis mine)
I have gone camping. Those with me might disagree with my definition of “camping,” as I take everything needed and many optional items designed to make it less “campy.” Glamping fits my experience more. I can’t imagine how it might have felt for the Israelites to always be ready to move on, especially when they didn’t know whether it was overnight or a year when the plans changed. When their stay lasted many months or a year; there would be a tendency to become more “settled.”
Well, I said I couldn’t imagine packing up and moving with little notice…until this year. I had settled in for our annual writer’s retreat, extended a bit because one friend and I arrive early to have a day or two for spiritual preparation and relaxation before the work of the retreat begins. When we scheduled our pre-retreat, we knew about the plan to put a pool in the backyard of our house. The plan was to dig the hole Monday/Tuesday and place the pool Tuesday/Wednesday. Our group was arriving on Friday, so even with some delays, they should have completed the work before everyone arrived. The pool was waiting in the yard, but the work to prepare the hole was continuing on Wednesday. They expected rocky dirt; what they found under the first foot or so was solid rock. They had used a jackhammer earlier in the week and continued to break up rock to get the hole deep enough. We were told they hoped to finish that day and we adjusted to the “gentle sound” of breaking rock.
Side note: I used to work nights and am used to sleeping whenever and however I could. Even with the constant noise, I took a nap for a good 2 hours. But I doubted most of the others could rest with the thumping sound just yards from the windows.
On Thursday, the jackhammer continued, and we were concerned with the timing. At lunch, we ventured outside and asked the workers how things were going. They “hoped” to finish by the end of Friday. We were still OK because the others arrived on Friday and our first official day was Saturday. Even if the jackhammer continued to the end of the week, we could deal with the softer sounds of placing the pool and backfilling dirt early the next week. Then, the sound suddenly stopped in the afternoon. Looking outside, we realized the reason. The jackhammer attachment for the skid steer had a broken rod.
Upon arrival, our host offered another house, but we declined because we loved this house and location (as did the other writers). So, my friend and I hoped for the best. When the machine became inoperable, it was apparent that this process would most likely go into the next week. One thing our group treasured was the quietness of the retreat to write. We decided to change houses before everyone else arrived.
When we contacted our host, she stated her assistant would help us move and could come now. Yikes!!! Did I mention I am an over-packer who had already settled in? It would take some time; I requested an hour…60 frantic minutes to re-pack what originally took hours to arrange in our containers and vehicle.
My friend (also an over-packer) and I jammed items into whatever container, tote, suitcase, or bag we grabbed. Things that had fit tightly like puzzle pieces now resembled legos dumped into the toy box and mixed with stuffed animals. So much wasted space. Clothes mixed with books, computer and other charging cables placed “as is” into the bag with our computers. There was no time for efficient packing, we needed to hurry. The food we had purchased after our arrival added to our already gigantic pile. It surprised our helpers that this belonged to just 2 people. We easily came in the same car, but because of our haphazard frenzied packing, it took 2 vehicles for the move across town.
Unpacking (again) and setting up our temporary desk (again) took longer the second time because we had to find items that were hastily packed for the sudden journey.
My bible study included Numbers 9 and as I read, I realized God had given me a glimpse of what it would be like to pack up and move at a moment’s notice. Like the Israelites, we had just finished getting things arranged, prepared food, and settled in expecting to stay awhile. Then, we had to change locations. I chuckled as the phrase oft-quoted by Jackie Gleason came to my mind as I compared the wilderness and our eventful day. I wonder if someone in the Israelite camp muttered “…and away we go” on their journey. Jackie would have chuckled…I know I did.